I’ve been avoiding this – the revisiting of the first dreadful Thanksgiving Since. I anticipated it would be bad. Nothing prepared me for how gut-wrenchingly awful it would actually be. Maybe if I let the words out, I can also let them go. Here goes.
Every year Nolan would go to my sister’s house a couple days early to help her cook. That was a passion and a talent they both shared. It was wonderful to see her connect with my son in that way. Not having any children of her own, I think it gave her a brief glimpse of how amazing it is to see a child blossom under your wing. This year our oldest went to help her Aunt in Nolan’s place. They had fun, and that makes me feel good. Plus this happened. It made me laugh. (Remember to open in new tab!)
We spent the week in MA. DH was working, and I got to visit with some friends. That was good. I was good. I felt stronger. It’s always a little easier on me being away from home. Home hurts too much.
As much as I dreaded The Day, time is relentless and it dawned before me much against my wishes. I awoke in tears. Li’l N was right there, as always, holding me. He doesn’t say a word. He doesn’t try to tell me it’s ok or make false promises that it will be ok. He simply holds me and lets me cry for as long as I need to. I’m in awe at his ability to instinctively know how to comfort at such a young age. I wonder if I let him comfort me too much sometimes. Then I think, perhaps his comfort and my acceptance is a gift to both of us. He is powerless to change the situation, and as a child I imagine he feels that magnified. Knowing that his care does help, I think maybe that gives him a little bit of empowerment too. Or I could be completely wrong and I’m letting him take on more than I should. I have no idea. But I digress.
The day dawns and eventually I get myself out of bed, dressed, and somewhat composed. We went to watch my nephew’s last football game as a Senior. I know I sat through the game. I must’ve watched it. I didn’t see any of it. My mind, my heart, my Soul was elsewhere. I both wanted the game to end so I could curl into myself privately and I wanted it to last forever because I knew what came next. Again, time is relentless.
I struggled the whole ride to my Sister’s house. I prayed and prayed and prayed for help to stay strong, to face this day with grace, to find some moment of joy amidst the sorrow. Some prayers just aren’t answered. Maybe they are always answered and sometimes the answer is “No.”
I knew I couldn’t let anyone touch me. I was barely hanging on by a fraying thread, quickly unraveling. If anyone touched me, I would lose all semblance of control. I was open and simply said “I’m not hugging today.” My family, at least 99% of them, are wonderful and accepting and supportive. My proclamation was met with a simple, “Ok.” Phew. I thought maybe I could do this. I was wrong.
I walked into the kitchen where we typically gather and was immediately brought to my knees by a cheese platter. A g*d-damned friggin cheese platter. You simply cannot account for what will devastate you. I have nothing against cheese. I like cheese. Nolan, however, LOVED cheese. He used to say “Cheese is my weakness.” He would hover over that platter and inhale its contents with smiles that lit him from within. Ahhh the power of cheese. I looked at that seemingly innocuous platter of dairy and my world spun out of control. It looked like I was in a kaleidoscope. The room tilted on its axis. I felt dizzy and nauseous. The floor opened up beneath me and the black abyss of Grief pulled me under with no warning. It was instantaneous. I was lost before I was even able to register what happened. I tried to hide it. I’m not sure what I said or if I said anything out loud, but I blinked and found myself sitting on a corner of the couch in the living room, alone. I think I did black out for a minute. I didn’t faint, but my mind clicked out. Kind of like a drunken blackout without the benefit of the drunken part. There was a glass of wine next to me, and I still have no recollection of how it got there.
I stayed in that spot, on that couch for a couple hours. I think I might have talked to people, but I’m not sure. I remember being gifted with a beautiful journal by my Sister’s dear friend. It’s leather-bound and embossed with the Tree of Life. Perfect for me, and so touching that it brought my consciousness into my body briefly. I was in a fog, and I don’t remember all of that hideous day. I have glimpses. I have sound clips. Bursts of laughter coming from around that damned cheese platter. It made me angry. Then I felt guilty for feeling angry. Then I felt sad for feeling guilty. At least I kept my mouth shut. I think. I remember sitting there and willing myself out of my body. I felt trapped, caged. I couldn’t get out. I couldn’t get away. I remember my oldest daughter sitting next to me at one point, but I don’t remember if we spoke. I was on auto-pilot and either I was so good that nobody noticed or my family was really good about not mentioning it. Either way or maybe both. I don’t know.
When it was time to gather at the table, I froze. I tried waiting for everyone else to situate themselves first. I had every intention of standing up and walking over. I knew I couldn’t eat, but I thought I would sit there at least. My feet were encased in lead. My legs became numb. My heart raced. My hands tingled. My head spun wildly. There was no way I could get myself to that table. One minute I was on the couch and then next I was locked in the bathroom upstairs. I don’t remember what happened in betweeen. It’s blank. I sat at my Sister’s vanity and sobbed. I was wracked with painful sobs that tore from the very depths of my Soul. I heard laughter from downstairs. I heard DH’s laughter and it tore me to shreds. He hadn’t offered one bit of comfort all day and it ripped me apart. I knew he was doing what he had to do, even at the time. But still. I felt so terribly isolated and alone.
I don’t know how long I sat there. Eventually my oldest daughter and youngest son came to my rescue. I don’t know if they said anything, although they must have. I felt both of their hands on me and it was a lifeboat tossed into the churning sea of despair. I don’t know if I asked Li’l N to get my pills or if he thought of it on his own. I wish I had thought to take a pill much earlier in the day. I slipped one of those little tablets under my tongue and in a short while I was able to gain a little more control of myself. I knew I had to make my way to the table just because. Somehow I did. I had literally a bite of turkey and a bite of stuffing. I tasted none of it. I think I sat there for minutes before returning to my spot on the couch. Those pills knock me out, and I was so grateful for the darkness that crept over me. I was freezing even though the room was hot. I couldn’t stop shivering. I didn’t fight the pull of sleep. I had been checked out all day even with my eyes open. It felt good to let them close and the heck with anyone around me.
When I awoke some time later, (hours?) I felt better. Not much but a little. I felt hungry, actually. It occurred to me I hadn’t eaten all day. I fixed myself a small plate of leftovers and picked at it. It didn’t taste right to me. I’m sure it was the usual bit of deliciousness, but Grief robs you of your tastebuds. It twists your sense of smell. It dulls all colors in the world. I had to force it down. I think I was able to hold a conversation by this point, but I’m not sure who it was with or what it was about. My sister? Probably, but I don’t honestly remember.
When I next looked at the clock, it was after midnight. I don’t know where the hours went. It really was an odd experience. I’ve never been so in and out of consciousness before. I have clearer memories of the hospital than I do of that Dreadful Day. I must have been in shock or something. I simply could not handle it.
It was after 1am before I laid my body down. I took another pill just in case, which I haven’t done in more than a month. Li’l N snuggled in my arms. I remembered laying in the hospital bed with Nolan, knowing that the time left with him in my arms was dwindling. My Mother swept the hair out of my face and whispered close to my ear “Stay in the moment. Don’t think about what comes next. Right now, in this moment, you have Nolan in your arms.” I held onto that with Li’l N. I stopped allowing myself to think of what was missing. In that moment, deep in the stillness of the night, I had my youngest son, my baby, held safely in my arms. I felt the weight of him on my body. I smelled the soft scent of his cologne and shampoo. I heard the quiet sighs of his peaceful slumber, and I surrendered. I let the day end knowing the next would come and I would wage the battle once again.